An army officer is among three suspected wildlife traffickers who were arrested after being caught trying to sell leopard skins.

The intelligence led operation in Kinshasha was in carried out in collaboration with Conserv Congo and Kinshasa provincial police. Wildlife Crimes Investigator, Adams Cassinga, said the suspects would make an appearance in the Gombe Magistrates Court.

“Eco-justice should and must prevail over conservation crimes as a way of saving the last surviving species of our times. We do it for our country, we do it for humanity, we do it for future generations,” says Cassinga.

“Conserv Congo remains committed to community conservation in a society free from any wildlife trafficking of any sort.”

David Barritt, chief campaigner for animal welfare organization, Network for Animals, said wildlife trafficking had become a booming business around the world, and that wildlife populations have suffered considerably as a result.

“It is sickening that money has become more important than a life – whether it is an animal or a human. No amount of money can ever justify their brutal slaying and for an army officer to be implicated, is even more disgusting. Where is your humanity? An army officer should be saving lives not taking it,” says Barritt.

Many countries have a huge interest in leopards for their symbolism and the value of their parts. In June last year, Conservation Action reported that leopards are Asia’s most trafficked big cat, with more than 4,900 seized from illegal trade in Asia since 2000. Leopard bones and skins are used by the Chinese to make health tonics and traditional medicines.

In 2016, Science Daily reported that a leading pathologist had found snow leopard, tiger and rhino DNA in Chinese remedies. In an article published in the journal Forensic Science Medicine and Pathology, Professor Roger Byard, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Medicine, says that traditional Chinese medicine had been identified as a significant driver in the illicit global wildlife trade.